Maryville College brings dining hall into the modern era

Dana Moran, Managing Editor

maryville college dining

In vintage photographs, happy housewives make old chrome appliances and midcentury kitchens seem charming, but for the dining staff at Maryville College, they were a living nightmare.

“I think they just prayed for the day they would actually get their new kitchen,” says James Dulin, general manager for Metz Culinary Management at the Maryville, Tenn., school. “We did cook for a while in that 1960s kitchen, and I can tell you, it drove everybody crazy.”

Features such as steam kettles and manpower-reliant dish rooms were on the chopping block when Maryville’s Margaret Ware Dining Room underwent a $2 million renovation, completed over the course of two summers. But while Dulin and others, including Director of Culinary Development Ryan McNulty and Metz District Manager Dennis Daley, were excited to bring the 104-year-old Pearsons Hall, which houses the dining room, into the 21st century, they also wanted to respect its roots. The original, exposed brick and archways within Ware have been restored and help accent the room’s origins without feeling dated, Dulin says.

“We really focused on a lot of historical aspects of the building,” Dulin says. “A lot of the brick fascia on the old building was able to be spotlighted, especially on the entrance side and the far side of the servery area. It really does accent the history of this building.”

That history includes a porch; large, sturdy columns; and a veranda in the Pearson Hall lobby, which was brought into the present with a small c-store and coffee shop featuring locally roasted beans. While students make up the main customer base at all Pearson foodservice outlets, staff, faculty and commuters are prevalent in the morning, Dulin says, and retail sales have more than doubled since the revamp.

Once inside Margaret Ware, service has changed from burgers held in hot boxes and mainly back-of-house prep to self-serve pizza and customizable sandwiches. “A concentration of made-to-order and fresh product production at each station have definitely increased our staffing,” Dulin says, though advance hiring and training eliminated bumps in the road.

Though the buzz over the redesign means the volume of diners has jumped from about 300 to 550 students at lunch without much increase in seating, Dulin says Margaret Ware’s popularity hasn’t caused crowding issues. “The style of service is more spread out, there’s more choice, and … it helps diffuse the crowds that come in. It doesn’t mean that lines don’t form, but we’re able to get them in and fed and fat, and conversations going … or staring at their cellphones,” he laughs.

The inviting atmosphere along with increased food quality and variety make the door rates at Margaret Ware “very competitive versus comparable restaurants in town,” Dulin says. “I think the students are happy; I think the school is overjoyed with what’s been accomplished; and … our employees are floored with the new, more efficient kitchen,” he says.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business

In October, the unemployment rate hit its lowest point since the Vietnam War, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it’s a number that is significantly affecting foodservice hiring.

Not only are directors and chefs having a tough time filling job s but they also can’t find enough skilled workers to execute the menu and provide good customer service. As operators continue to grapple with this problem, some are finding the solution lies in extensive cross-training.

Multitasking to stretch staff

“Every staff member is trained to multitask,” says Kory Samuels,...

Industry News & Opinion

Residents of Missouri and Arkansas voted on Tuesday to increase their state’s minimum wage to $12 and $11, respectively.

The wage hikes approved for the two states will be phased into place over a period of years.

In Missouri, where the minimum is currently $7.85 an hour, foodservice operators and other employers will be required to pay a minimum of $8.60 as of Jan. 1, $9.45 in 2020, $10.30 in 2021, $11.15 in 2022 and $12 in 2023.

Arkansas’ pay floor will rise to $11 by 2021. The legal minimum wage will rise to $9.25 an hour on Jan. 1, $10 a year later and $11 the...

Menu Development
fresh fruit

More than a third of college students (39%) say they have a few snacks between meals, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend Report , powered by Ignite. While fresh fruit is the snack of choice for college kids, operators can also satisfy cravings with more standard snacking fare such as chips. Here are the most preferred snacks for college students.

!function(e,t,n,s){var i="InfogramEmbeds",o=e...
Menu Development
coffee cake

Step into any of Florida State University’s three dining halls on a Friday and you’ll be met with a line that is often 30 to 40 guests deep. Since before the current dining team can remember, Honey Fried Chicken Fridays have been a popular weekly routine for Florida State students, as well as the surrounding Tallahassee community.

“You’ve got to get there early, or you’ve got to be patient because it’s that popular,” says Scott Bryan, public relations specialist for Seminole Dining.

While FSU’s famous honey fried chicken has been on the menu for years, chefs recently...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code